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Colleges and COVID-19: How the pandemic is changing orientation

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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – More than six million applications were submitted through Common App, a college admission application, for the 2020-2021 submission cycle. In turn, colleges are readying themselves for the onslaught of students, especially in the new student orientation process, designed with COVID-19 in mind.

University of Georgia student Kate Cartwright is one of the roughly 13,700 first-years admitted for incoming 2024 class. While UGA offered both virtual and in-person orientation, Cartwright opted for in-person because she wanted to meet her fellow first-year students.

“I was very happy to be able to see other people altogether and especially a good portion of my freshman class. And it was just very fun to meet other people from all different places, whether you’re from Georgia or you know, around the country,” Cartwright said.

Schools like the University of Georgia adapted to prepare incoming students in a COVID-19 world by offering both in-person and virtual orientations. Auburn University and Columbus State University both offered in-person and virtual orientation experiences this year.

Columbus State University offered two different in-person experiences and a virtual orientation this year. The ROAR and ROAR+ program is aimed at aiding students in the college transition process. This year, CSU held four ROAR sessions, with a virtual orientation the day prior to each session. With the in-person orientations, incoming students toured the campus, met their orientation leaders, registered for classes, and receive their student IDs.

The Director of Strategic Communication Greg Hudgison said that in-person orientations help acclimate students to the Columbus community which lets students concentrate better on classes when the school semester begins.

“They’re excited for being here. We’re excited to see them. So we think it’s a great opportunity for both for them to get, get here, get some of the business side of things, taken care of, register for classes, get their ID card, their parking passes. But at the same time, they get to know each other. They get to know the city of Columbus. And so we think it benefits. It benefits all of us,” said Hudgison.

Bryce Hightower is one of CSU’s orientation leaders for the Summer 2021 session. He said the orientation experience is different this year, both in preparation and presentation.

Orientation leaders at CSU met with different departments from the Counseling Center to the Center of Accomodation Access during their training. The leaders also learned how to work through technological issues such as Zoom shutting down or students not having access to laptops.

“We honestly try our best to make sure that each student is feeling comfortable with either and we’re also willing to take suggestions. So let’s say a student is online and they quite don’t feel that they’re getting experience. We’re trying our best to communicate with that,” says Hightower.

According to Hightower, CSU’s orientation was completely virtual last year. But the goal remains the same both in the virtual and in-person setting, building connections and making sure students are comfortable.

“It’s okay to be nervous. It’s okay. Just come with your best foot forward because today or any day you come, it’s about trying, seeing what you’re comfortable with,” says Hightower.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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